Tag Archives: GPKs

Shaking the Pillars of Heaven…

So, the start of a new week, and it’s already been a rather crazy roller coaster of ups and downs here at Branded HQ.  Live in or around Jacksonville, FL area?  Did you feel the ground quake around noon on Saturday?  Did it rain frogs for a bit and mess up your outdoor lunch festivities?  Did your rose bushes suddenly burst into very fragrant flames?  Well that was probably partly my fault as I made a day trip down to the area to meet some folks in person that I’ve been talking with online for years.  That’s right, I finally got a chance to meet Paxton Holley of the amazing Cavalcade of Awesome, and in the process uniting 2/3rds of the Cult Film Club in person for the first time (no worries, I brought Jaime along in spirit, or rather with a bit of her soul that was captured on film and then printed out at Kinko’s.)  I’m pretty sure there’s some old testament prophecy about some pretty crazy stuff happening if all three of us were to gather in person in the same location at the same time…

Cult Film Club Polaroid small

So what was I doing in that neck of the woods?  Well, when not talking about rad cult films, Pax’s main podcasting gig is as a co-host of the Nerd Lunch show (which I’ve been on a time or two, or ten actually), and they’ve been planning an IRL meet-up for awhile.  Carlin, Paxton, Robert (from the cool To the Escape Hatch site) and myself all converged on Jacksonville for some great food (at 4 Rivers Smokehouse), some great conversation (there should be a podcast released soon), and just some good times in general.

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In addition to the above conversation and merriment I was also introduced to the concept of a Doritos encrusted Mountain Dew flavored cupcake.  Yeah, read that last bit slowly and mull on that idea as you take a look at this monstrosity…

Mtn Dew Cupcake

It was pretty insane.  Not as Dew-y as I’d hoped, but still pretty darn tasty and crazy.

In other news, my beloved DVD player of the last 10 years has passed on to that electronic junk pile in the sky (which I imagine is actually the planet Junkion from Transformers the Movie.)  I’ve watched a metric ton of films and TV on that player and was pretty sad to see it go.  I mean, I wore thumb and finger grooves in the remote.  Sigh.  Well, the last movie to play on it was an 80s flick I’d neglected to watch until last night, the John Hughes written/produced romantic comedy Some Kind of Wonderful.  So if it was going to die, at least it, A, let me watch this flick, and B, picked a pretty rad movie to spin as it’s last screening. I’m glad it didn’t sputter out any sooner as I was able to see a very young and super precocious Candace Cameron playing with her collection of Garbage Pail Kids!  Harkening back to The Monster Squad post, it looks like Eugene wasn’t the only collector on the silver screen…

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SKoW 4 small

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In a move that was almost too cute to bear, Hughes, director Howard Deutch, or maybe even Cameron herself decided to have the GPKs fighting against each other.  My head almost exploded by the sheer amount of adorable nostalgia on the screen.

SKoW 3 small

I also love that she had both a collection on the backing in a cigar box as well as a bunch of stickers that were applied in a photo album.  Too cool.  I don’t remember ever seeing sticker collection in a flick like this before (though I’m sure I’m forgetting a movie or two…)

So, now I have to decide.  Do I finally get a Blu-Ray player and an HD TV?

 

I think it’s safe to say that this is my favorite book ever!

Yesterday I opened the mailbox to see a package from Amazon and my heart skipped a beat. For well over 15 years I’ve been dreaming about the idea of my perfect coffee table book, and in that little brown box I knew it was about to become a reality.  For anyone who’s been reading the site for any length of time probably already knows, I’m a huge Garbage Pail Kids nut.  Collecting and trading those stickers was a very big part of my youth, and though my original collection was lost decades ago I still cherished my memories of those gross and funny sticker cards.  By hook and by crook I’ve managed to rebuild a pretty decent collection of the vintage GPKs, including a near complete series one set that I never thought I’d manage.  All the while though I keep hoping that one day Topps would step up and release a nice photo book that reprinted all the awesome artwork from the original 15 series.  Heck, at least the first three series would have been awesome.

A few years ago my hopes got a big boost when Abrams and Topps released the first two volumes of their Wacky Packages retrospective (Volume 1 and Volume 2); I mean a nice GPK book would surely have to follow.  Well, one of the wonderful editors at Abrams assured me that something was in the works, and for the past six months I’ve been dying to see the final product.  Well, the wait was finally over…

Needless to say I ripped through the Amazon packaging so that I could finally put my hands on this coveted Garbage Pail Kids  tome and it’s pretty much everything I could ever want in a coffee table book.  This volume reprints the first five GPK series (206 separate paintings in all) which covers the initial boom of the phenomena.  There’s a forward by series mastermind Art Spiegelman that gives a nice overview of how the original series came about, and a short but sweet afterword by the original GPK artist John Pound which has some fun insights into his participation as well.  This book isn’t about the history of the stickers though, it’s all about a gorgeous presentation of the cards themselves.  In that department I think the book is amazing with only a few caveats in the missed-opportunity department.

  

First and foremost, the volume is beautifully designed in the same fashion as the Wacky Packages books, including a wax paper dust cover (which is still a very clever detail) and various bits of GPK collecting imagery (empty sticker backs, empty card boxes, stale sticks of chewing gum, and examples of the first five wax packages.) T he artwork of the cards themselves is presented pretty close to the actual size of the original paintings if I’m not mistaken, which is a very nice touch as well.  There was also a lot of care in how the “sister/brother – A& B” naming of the cards was represented, as well as working in imagery from the checklist design, and a handful of the series one Nutty Awards cardbacks.  There are even 4 included stickers that never made it press in any of the original series (for various reasons, but mostly due to overly violent imagery is my guess.)

There are a couple details that I think would have been nice to see though.  Since part of the deal with Topps was that the artists didn’t sign their work, it would have been nice if the various artists had some sort of attribution by each piece in the book.  Granted, John Pound did all the sticker artwork for the first two series, but Tom Bunk joined in on series three, and for those not versed in telling the two artists apart it would have been a nice touch.  The other thing that I would have wanted to see would have been a better representation of the cardbacks for each series.  As I mentioned above, there are a handful of the series one Nutty Award backs on the inside front cover of the book, but there aren’t any from the remaining 4 series in this volume at all.  Even if there were only a couple sampled at a smaller size in each chapter it would have gone a long way to completing the experience of collecting these sticker cards in the book.  Again, not a huge complaint, just a missed opportunity.

  

All in all though, I am so excited that this Garbage Pail Kids book finally exists and is sitting here right in front of me as I type this.  I’ve already flipped though this book 10 times and I still kind of can’t believe it’s actually real.  I know that may sound like hyperbole, but it’s true.  The only thing that could top this would be seeing two more volumes collecting the remaining ten vintage sets in the near future. Abrams, are you listening?

Branding and nostalgia, what keeps me buying…

Since I’m so enthralled with the pop culture of my youth, it can get kind of dicey when navigating today’s modern boom of 80s and 90s nostalgia with any sort of cost-conscious mindset.  10 years ago, when I first started reaching back into my childhood, there weren’t many options as far satiating my need for 80s stuff.  Either I hit up eBay and tried to buy back some of my memories, or I could scour the internet looking for tiny image files of cartoon screen captures or poorly recorded mp3s of sitcom theme songs.  It’s partly because of this that I started Branded in the 80s.  If I was going to drop 15 bucks on a sticker-themed magazine from 1985, I wanted to make sure it was readily available for others as well.

Over the past decade the options for nostalgia addicts has exploded like an atom bomb.  Actually, more like an Adam Bomb.  Released by Topps back in 2003, The All New Garbage Pail Kids sticker cards were one of the first big product lines cashing in on the fondness for the 80s.  Like the re-launch of the Masters of the Universe line the previous year, these GPKs featured new artwork and concepts (though yes, some were taken from the original 16th series that never saw print back in the day) and provided more than just fresh stickers to procure, it provided fans a second chance to experience the heady feeling of procuring this stuff.  I’ve written about this before, but half of the fondness we have for this pop culture stuff was in the experience of discovering it.  Finding it, buying it, and collecting it.  It’s not just the artwork on the stickers, it’s the wax wrappers and gum they were packaged in.  The shared cultural experience of chewing hard stale sticks of gum, of walking into a gas station or pharmacy and finding your first packs by the register; it’s the memories of begging your parents for money to buy them and then the idle time spent day-dreaming about the future where you’d spend all your money as an adult on Garbage Pail Kids and junk like it.

When I first walked into my local gas station back in 2003 and I saw a full, fresh box of the new GPK stickers I had to do a double take.  I had no idea these were coming out, and I couldn’t believe they were sitting there on the counter.  I actually got giddy as I scooped up the entire box and had to sit and wait while the cashier scanned each individual pack.  I was finally getting a chance to be that “adult” that I day-dreamed about becoming as a kid.  In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t all that important, but at the same time, these experiences don’t come all that often so it’s best to relish them when given the opportunity.

Again, fast forward a few years and the opportunity to buy 80s era nostalgic pop culture junk has exploded, and these days you really have to be picky where you plop down your 30 bucks to try and relive your childhood.  I’m definitely not complaining about the glut of stuff that seems marketed directly to me, but I’ve also kind of become numb to the new breed of 80s branded incarnations that surround us on a daily basis.  Do I really need that box of Smurf Cereal just because one side of the box has a passing resemblance to the Smurfberry cereal of my youth?  Do I really need that snap-back billed ball cap that looks like an extreme close-up of Kermit the Frog’s face?  How about that ironic T-shirt with the cast of Sesame Street that says “Raised on the Street”?  Monster Cereal or He-Man branded Hot Wheels?  Back to the Future Mini Mates?  Hyper-realistic Beetlejuice action figures?  G.I. Joe Resolute DVDs?  Probably not.  But there are some things that catch my eye that I can’t pass up, and 9 times out of 10 it has to do with the packaging and presentation of the product.  Case in point, and going back to Topps and the Garbage Pail Kids, there’s these new GPK magnet and candy sets…

While out at my local Toys ‘R Us the other day I spotted these on a kiosk at the front of the store.  John Pound’s Acne Amy artwork is super iconic to me because it was a card that I saw a lot when I first got into GPKs back in the 80s.  Though I entered around the time the 3rd series was on store shelves, there were rack packs (holding the equivalent of three packs of cards, two 3rd series and one 2nd series) on the shelves that seemed to always have an Acne Amy (or Ghastly Ashley) on top viewable through the clear cellophane.  This new set of magnet cards is available in 4 different packages ($4 each), with either Ghastly Ashley, Potty Scotty, Beastly Boyd, or Adam Bomb on the front.  I’m kind of surprised the designers didn’t go with Dead Ted or Evil Eddie, but they’re all still iconic images that immediately evoke the GPK branding, specifically images that would relate to the adult collector.  The packaging is even cut I such a way that it resembles one of the original die-cut stickers peeled off of the backing.  As soon as I saw them I knew I wasn’t leaving the store without one of each package.

I thought it was interesting that I recently read that Michael Eisner had procured Topps, and looking at projects like these magnet cards, I can kind of see the sort of thing he was doing with Disney back in the 90s.  Can’t say for sure he was involved obviously, but love him or hate him, he did revitalize Disney’s branding.  Back to these magnet cards, I thought it was interesting that nostalgia was the ploy used to get the prospective buyer to snag a bag of these.  Of the 16 cards in the set, only four are from the original vintage sets, the same four that are on the packages.  In a smart sorting decision, each pack comes with one of these vintage magnets (matching the packaging.)  So this was a nice way of satiating the nostalgia bug with keeping up the collectability of the set to keep you buying more.  Out of four packages I am still missing three of the new designs for instance.

On a final note, if you pick any of these up, don’t bother unwrapping and eating the included gummy candy.  Much like the hard sticks of dried out gum that came with the original sticker cards, these body part-shaped gummies are just about inedible.  I guess it’s almost better that way.

Garbage Pail Kids + M.U.S.C.L.E. + Erasers = The Trash Pack

Though I tend not to cover much of the modern merchandising that plays off of 80s nostalgia, from time to time I do see some stuff that I just have to share.  While walking around Toys R Us the other day looking at their new Halloween displays I stumbled upon some little toys that really caught my eye.  They’re called the Trash Pack

In a nutshell, these little guys are the equivalent of the cheap-o vending toys you tend to find at the entrances to grocery stores and as prizes in arcades.  They’re a collection of 1″ monsters, critters, spoiled food items and bugs (both micro-biotic and insectile in nature) that are a cross between a pencil topper and a charm toy.  Normally I probably would have passed these up as the available packages (containing either 5 or 12 figures) were pretty pricey ($6 for 5 and $10 for 12), but the sheer amount of 80s era influeces packed into these little guys was just too attractive…

First off, the figures are packaged in little plastic garbage cans that immediately evoke the M.U.S.C.L.E. men phenomenon, but there’s also an obvious Garbage Pail Kids vibe with the all the gross gags and collectability.  On top of that these are also riffing off of the current resurgence of figural eraser collecting that’s really gripped kids for the first time in 25 years.  If these had also come with stickers I think my mind would have melted…

  

All in all I have to say that even though the thought that went into the merchandising was pretty cool, the price-point is just way too out of whack.  All told there are almost 200 different figures (including color variations on around 55 different molds) and the chances of scoring a complete set for under $100 seems pretty slim.  When you consider that these are just glorified vending toys, that makes these guys pretty darn expensive.  Also, though some of the molds are pretty cool (I highlighted my favorites in the photos), there are a lot that just don’t read well (in terms of coming across as what they are.)  These are available in 2, 5, and 12 packs, and I think that if the price was reduced by half they might catch on, but I have a hard time seeing parents plunking down the kind of cash it would take to get there kids started out on a decent collection.

  

Before the Garbage Pail Kids we had the Crabbage Patch Teenagers!

Getting a chance to look at all these old book club flyers reminded me that I have a stack of some of the more obscure Scholastic branded magazines from the 80s called Maniac.  I plan on scanning the best of those issues for next week, but today I have a really cool advertising parody from the back of issue five called the Crabbage Patch Teenagers!

There are metric tons of parodies of the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomena from the 80s, Garbage Pail Kids being my favorite, but the above ad is kind of cool because it was one of the earliest that I’ve been able to track down.  In the timeline of insanity we have the CPK craze really kicking into high gear around the Christmas season of 1983, then sometime in early 1985 John Pound painted Mark Newgarden’s CPK parody concept called a Garbage Pail Kid for the 1985 Topps Wacky Packages re-launch (though it never made it into the final set), next John Pound, Mark Newgarden, Tom Bunk and Art Speigleman launched Topps full-on Garbage Pail Kids parody stickers in June of ’85, and last but not least, Mad magazine premiered its Cabbage Patch Kids parody in their December 1985 issue (consequently I couldn’t find any mention of CPK in Cracked through the end of 1986.)

So the above Crabbage Patch Teenagers is one of the earliest parodies, sliding in right behind the initial doll insanity.  Though I think I can safely say that this ad wasn’t an inspiration for the Garbage Pail Kids, it’s none-the-less a GPK precursor that looks a whole heck of a lot like the artwork John Pound would be producing just months later.  Especially when you look at the painting he did for the Wacky Packages piece, which bears little resemblance doll-wise to what he ended up doing in the 1st GPK series set, this Maniac ad really is the 1st time the public saw something resembling a Garbage Pail Kid.

I don’t know,  I find this parody fascinating…